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Desert Diary


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Everybody knows that a horse can outrun a man any day. Let's hold on a minute there, though, because actually it depends! Sure, for short distances, horses out-do humans every time. But long distances? That's something else, because well-conditioned athletes have the endurance to run down the fastest horse over an extended period of time. And when it comes to running, a group centered just a bit west of the Chihuahuan Desert are perhaps the best in the world—the Tarahumara Indians. Running is so important to their culture that they call themselves the Rarámuri, broadly translated as "fleet of foot".

Kick-ball races, contests indulged in by Tarahumaran men, commonly last some 24 to 36 hours, during which the runners may cover a distance of approximately 120 to 180 miles without resting—and over some of the roughest country around. In contrast, the women's hoop-stick races are a mere walk, so too speak, only lasting 5 to 6 hours over some 30 miles. And listen up, Nike fans—these runners do it either in bare feet or sandals!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Lutz, D., and M. Lutz. 1989. The running Indians. Dimi Press, Salem, Oregon.

Severance, P. 1993. The Legend of the Tarahumara. Runner's World. Dec., p. 74.

Williams, K. 1993. The incredible feat (Or is it feet?) of the Tarahumara. Ultrarunning, October, p. 8.

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